Dodd: Every kid needs a healthy start and one successful program provides it | MyWindsorNow.com

Dodd: Every kid needs a healthy start and one successful program provides it

Christy Dodd
For the Tribune

Dodd, Christy

A little health program in Colorado that creates a big impact needs our help.

The Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHP+ in Colorado, provides health insurance to working families who don't qualify for Medicaid but also can't begin to meet the premiums and deductibles associated with private health insurance. The clock is ticking on this critical health insurance program, and unless Congress acts by Sept. 30 to keep funding flowing, thousands of Colorado kids and pregnant women risk losing their access to quality, affordable health care.

Through the program, kids and pregnant women get the health care they need and the healthy starts they deserve. Much like private insurance, families using the program pay annual fees and co-pays for visits. Unlike some private health insurance or no insurance at all, the program also helps families facing financial challenges by protecting them from crushing medical debt — traditionally a leading reason for personal bankruptcy. In Colorado, families of four with incomes up to $63,960 are eligible for the program. In Weld County alone, more than 6,000 kids and pregnant women use the program annually to get access to the health and dental care they need.

Colorado has worked to ensure the provider network for the program is pediatric-focused, which puts kids' health first and provides lower cost-sharing options than in private plans. The program includes important benefits, including dental, that often aren't found in other plans. This attention to a pediatric-focused benefits package is particularly important to kids with chronic issues who often require specialty care.

Simply switching to private insurance isn't a solution for the working families who need the program. For example, the maximum annual enrollment fee for a family on CHIP is $75, or about $6.25 per month. The cheapest catastrophic health plan in Greeley for a child is $130.95 monthly — a 1,995 percent increase. That increase climbs to at least $144 a month — a 2,200 percent jump — if you live in many of Colorado's rural counties. And these catastrophic health plans still would expose families to very high out-of-pocket costs, including large deductibles.

For nearly 20 years, the program has enjoyed broad support at the local, state and federal level. There is no reason it should not continue to enjoy this support, because its value is clear. While the fate of health care in America continues to be debated, this is a program that simply deserves to continue. I urge all of us to let our elected officials know their quick action to fund this program is the right thing to do.

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— Christy Dodd is the executive director of Greeley-based Oral Health Colorado, the state's leading advocacy organization for oral health.

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